Diagnosis

Signs and symptoms

Breasts undergo changes throughout a woman’s life, particularly the normal changes experienced during the menstrual cycle. Some breast changes may be early signs of breast cancer, including:

  • a lump or lumpiness
  • thickening of the tissue
  • nipple changes, for example, a blood-stained discharge from one nipple, an inverted nipple (unless the nipple has always been turned in), and a rash on one nipple.
  • skin dimpling
  • a change in shape
  • a painful area
  • a rash or red marks which appear only on the breast.

Although these changes do not necessarily mean you have breast cancer, any breast change should be checked by a doctor. If you have a change in your breast, you may have several tests. Your general practitioner may arrange these tests or you may be referred directly to a breast specialist.

Biopsy

Often a biopsy will be necessary. A biopsy is the removal of a sample of a lump or the entire lump for examination under a microscope. Staging the breast cancer will show how far it has spread. The complete results from the biopsy and any further tests will help to determine the best treatment for you. With this information your doctors will know if you have an early breast cancer, locally advanced breast cancer or metastatic (secondary) breast cancer.